When I had my own company, I took Thursdays off religiously; it’s unexplainably my favourite day of the week. So working on a Sunday was never really an issue; first because I loved what I did and it was part of my lifestyle but also because I always had a true day off with Thursday.
But as I began to work more and more with larger brands, the mid-week day off eventually stopped and I was supposed to replace it with rest on Sunday. I say that very tongue in cheek because my brain wouldn’t stop working or the work from the week would be so much that it’d carry over. I had one gig that in which the team actually had to meet Sunday mornings because everyone’s schedule was so full during the week. Even when that stopped I began to use Sunday as a way to work on all the things I couldn’t get done during the week and would spent about 90minutes in the evening rearranging/updating my schedule, sending out emails and finishing up docs. With an average work week of 70hrs a week, I couldn’t even get an 8hour break on a Sunday.
When I realized the mental and physical cost to that, I added ‘take Sunday’s off for a year’ to my bucket list. I made valiant attempts – up to eight months at one point – but then I slipped off the wagon when I moved a few years ago to a new place, with a highly demanding global gig and away from all my habits. For the past several years, Sunday’s have been anything but restful.
Two weeks ago, I came home from the airport and, whilst carrying luggage down my outdoor steps, I missed the last one, banged my head on the pavers, and knocked myself out. When I came about I realised I had twisted my lower leg under me and screamed bloody murder. I had to have an ambulance take me away and had the ER declare a level 3 sprain, probably needing surgery.
That was a Saturday night. Sunday I woke up in a cast and immense pain. But Monday I had a group coming over to scout the home for a photo shoot and Tuesday I had to be back at work after being off for over a week. On the day I should have stayed in bed and kept my foot up – the perfect day to start a Day Of Rest – I didn’t. I moved, I worked, I did too much and paid a price or it.
I ended up back in ER a few days later because of complications. I also got strep throat. The pain and misery I felt at this time was unlike anything (and I’ve had 7 ankle surgeries before). But I kept working through each day as much as I could, even taking calls when I had lost my voice. I just couldn’t rest. I couldn’t let my team down, I couldn’t let myself down. I couldn’t, I couldn’t.
Then yesterday hit. I literally could not move. Between the pain, the tired and all the medication, I spent all day Saturday in bed, in and out of consciousness. So when I woke up this Sunday morning, I felt the worst behind me. My foot is still pretty bad (I find out tomorrow if I need surgery) but at least I could talk and my fever had broke. So what did I do? I started to work. I was afraid of being behind and all the meetings and work I had this week. I began to feel like I was letting everyone down and not performing the way I normally did. I needed to work. Until I realised, I didn’t.
I am the champion of self care to my friends, co-workers and direct reports. I will always advocate time off and personal indulgence like a massage or acupuncture to get people better. But despite all my talk, I rarely do these things (although when I do them, I go all out, like I’m making up for lost time). And this morning I took stock of where I am: with a severe injury, recovering from a major infection, and in no way close to being at 100%. My body is begging for rest + wellness. It’s begging for care and calm. And what am I doing? Ignoring it. For what? I have no idea. Ego, probably. Ego in the sense if I don’t do all the emails and projects people won’t think I’m super awesome. They’ll think I’m human. I think I was more worried about me figuring that out than anyone else.
I was watching a video on Hasidic Jews and listened how one family celebrates the Shabbatt, their day of rest. Wikipedia describes it like this:
According to halakha (Jewish religious law), Shabbat is observed from a few minutes before sunset on Friday evening until the appearance of three stars in the sky on Saturday night. Shabbat is ushered in by lighting candles and reciting a blessing. Traditionally, three festive meals are eaten: in the evening, in the early afternoon, and late in the afternoon. The evening meal typically begins with a blessing called kiddush and another blessing recited over two loaves of challah. Shabbat is closed the following evening with a havdalah blessing. Shabbat is a festive day when Jews exercise their freedom from the regular labors of everyday life. It offers an opportunity to contemplate the spiritual aspects of life and to spend time with family.
The family describe it as a total disconnect from the outside world. No media, no internet, no cell phones, no work. Nothing. It’s a total day to connect with yourself and god. As a non-religious person, I totally understand the beauty, purpose and need for this.
For me, Saturdays are usually my running around days with the world; chores, banking, emails, going out. But Sundays? Sundays I’m going to try to get back to resting again. I’ve been working really hard this year on my insomnia, stress and time management. So adding personal care and time off to that list is the next step.
So here’s my goal: no work. No checking emails, schedules or working on projects. Limit the computer or at least surfing (I don’t have a TV so I consume movies, which I love, on my computer. So 100% no go isn’t realistic). Dedicate time to reading, gardening, hikes with the dog, creative work, baking or cooking. No medias (twitter, online or print news), no alarm clocks and no guilt about hanging out in bed or drinking 4 cups of tea.
I’ll try to Instagram some new habits with #SundaysOff as a reminder to myself and encouragement to anyone else who struggles with this like I do (and if you want to join along, would love to see your #SundaysOff Instagram!)
It’s not super strict, there are no penalties or points. I’ll be gentle in my approach to it so I don’t feel like a failure if I fall down an hour long youtube rabbit hole (it happens). But knowing I have at least 4 weeks of recovery ahead of me, I feel like it’s really important to give my body and mind a break at least one day a week. And hopefully this will help me start to give myself evening breaks and then holidays. Think of the possibilities!